A recent decision in the High Court has highlighted that heterosexual couples are being treated unfairly and discriminated against.
One couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, have recently argued this and on 27 June, the Supreme Court agreed with them.
The couple had argued that it was discriminatory for the law to deny them the right to a civil partnership where same sex couples have had that right now for some years.
One of the benefits of being either a heterosexual married couple or a same sex couple in a civil partnership is that gifts (on death or lifetime) between them are exempt for Inheritance Tax purposes. This is not the case for heterosexual unmarried couples even though they may well be in a long established committed relationship.
It can be particularly devastating for unmarried heterosexual couples when one of them dies. Whilst the heterosexual married couple and the same sex civil partners will be able to pass all of their assets to the survivor free of inheritance tax, this is not the case for the unmarried couple who will only have a limited exemption available. This has the potential for leaving the survivor of them in financial difficulties.
Whilst the ruling made by the Supreme Court on 27 June may be a step in the right direction, it does not alter the law as it stands at the moment. Depending upon the type of assets the unmarried couple own, it may be possible for lifetime inheritance tax planning to be undertaken but for an unmarried heterosexual couple anxious to ensure the survivor of them inherits everything inheritance tax free, marriage may still seem to be the best option available.